Labour plans to ditch business rates in bid to “breathe life” into high streets

10th April 2024 | Jack Oliver

The Labour Party has pledged to replace business rates as part of its plan to “breathe life” into Britain’s high streets.

Labour plans to replace business rates with “a new system of business property taxation”, which it says will rebalance the burden and level the playing field between high street retailers and their online counterparts.

The five-point plan also includes proposals to revamp empty shops, pubs, and community spaces with the creation of a “right to buy” scheme for community assets.

The opposition party is also looking to tackle antisocial behaviour and shoplifting, roll out banking hubs, and introduce laws to stop late payments for high street retailers from big clients.

The proposals have been welcomed by some industry figures, such as Allen Simpson, deputy chief executive of trade body UKHospitality:

“Hospitality helps create places where people want to live, work and invest, but too often policies make it expensive to run businesses in the heart of communities”, he said.

“We’re pleased to see this focus on high streets and fixing the broken business rates system.

“The current system is archaic and unfairly penalises businesses that have a physical presence in communities, like hospitality. It’s clear that the current system is in urgent need of reform.

“We need to see governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff, alongside local authorities, do all they can to rebalance and reduce the costs that businesses are paying.

“Reforming business rates is an ideal place to start and will enable businesses to spend more of their available cash on investment, rather than just paying the bills.”

Dee Corsi, chief executive of the New West End Company, also said: “The news Labour has committed to much-needed reform of the unwieldy business rates systems will be welcomed by businesses across the country, including larger high street retailers in the West End who continue to be squeezed by an outsized tax burden and challenging trading environment.”

“Of course, these measures must now be developed in close consultation with businesses across the nation to ensure they work in practice and are not yet another sticking plaster.”

The plans were met with scrutiny from the Conservatives, however, with treasury minister Bim Afolami stating that higher taxes will mean working families will be “back to square one”.

He added: “The Labour-led Welsh Government is hiking up business rates: it has the highest business rates in Britain, and from April 2024 it slashed business rate relief for the hospitality sector.

“Only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a plan which is working: cutting the taxes of hardworking families, supporting small businesses with the biggest ever tax cut and halving inflation. We should stick to that plan and not go back to square one with Labour.”


Looking for more retail news? you might find these interesting